Winter heating costs & school budgets

radiatorBetween the polar vortex and a more recent stretch that was nearly as frigid, January was one of the coldest months the Upper Peninsula has seen in a long time. And homes aren’t the only things that are more costly to heat when it’s that cold. ABC 10 senior reporter Mike Hoey looks at how two Marquette County school districts are doing.

The Negaunee Public Schools have not had their budget busted by natural gas bills of $5,000 to $6,000 per month.

“We’ve just reviewed out budget for this school year, made some adjustments and amendments that we’re going to bring to the board on Monday night, and so far, our cost for energy for this school year is within the budget limits that we’ve set,” Negaunee superintendent Jim Derocher said.

Derocher says the district budgets $30,000 to $40,000 per year for heating costs. Ishpeming builds some breathing room into its budget for heating costs as well.

“I try to do about a five-year average to take out some of the warm years or the cold years, and so we do have excess built into our budget,” Ishpeming School District business manager and interim superintendent Anthony Bertucci said. “We will have to re-evaluate come springtime to see how we fared.”

When Ishpeming’s January natural gas bill recently arrived, the district received a very rude awakening.

“We’re about double (the size of the January bill) from where we were last year,” Bertucci said. “Even at a reasonable fuel cost, it is still double the expenditure.”

Derocher says improvement projects at all three school buildings have helped cut costs. The middle school and the high school earned EPA Energy Star certifications last year.

“As we move forward, we’re always looking at ways to save money, but the projects that we have done with the cooperation of the community has allowed us to save money, certainly, in all of the buildings,” he said.

If the bitter cold breaks within the next few weeks, Derocher says Negaunee won’t have any heating budget issues this winter.